- The government of Equatorial Guinea has been pressured to ratify all the core conventions regulating labour since 2001, due to the country's new oil industry. A new report however confirms the Equatoguinean government "in practice has continued to deny trade union rights."
Equatorial Guinea - judging by its legal codes and international conventions signed by its government - is a fully democratic country with advanced labour rights. In practical terms, however, there is no law, no democracy and nothing that comes close to a government.
The Equatoguinean constitution provides for the right to organise trade unions. According to the 1992 law on trade unions however, a union must have at least 50 members from the same workplace and the same geographical area in order to register, which is "effectively blocking union organisation," according to the annual survey of violations of trade union rights, released yesterday by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
In theory, further, the right to strike and to bargaining collectively exist, but there are no provisions protecting workers from acts of anti-union discrimination.
The Equatoguinean government ratified several core conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2001, including conventions 87 and 98, concerning freedom of association, protection of the right to organise and the right to organise and to bargain collectively. These, however, have still not been adapted into state legislation accordingly.
The ICFTU survey concludes that, in practical terms, "trade union rights are abused in Equatorial Guinea." Despite its legislation, the government does not recognise "independent" trade unions. Several attempts to organise labour have been counteracted by the government.
The authorities have consistently refused to register the Union Sindical de Trabajadores de Guinea Equatorial (UST), which cannot operate openly. The authorities also refused to legalise the public sector union, the Sindicato Independiente de Servicios (SIS).
While it met all the registration requirements the government objected to the term "independent" in its title. "When workers try to form trade unions, the police visit their homes and intimidate them," the survey says.
In practical terms, there is therefore no collective bargaining. The government and employers set wages, with little or no participation by workers.
Equatorial Guinea has managed to find quiet international accept for its repressive labour practices, as to its systematic violations of all other human rights. With the discovery and production of offshore oil, the government was pressured to sign and ratify all necessary international conventions to signal progress. As foreign investments poured in, however, no one has insisted on the implementation of labour and other human rights.
The Equatoguinean government has been headed by dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema since his 1979 coup d'état. President Obiang rules the country, together with his extended family, like his private property. Thus, his clan in practical terms also employs the vast majority of working Equatoguineans and he has no interest in improving workers' rights.
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